Part Forty-Four

When our two boys were young, we took them on various holidays including camping in tents to places such as Littlehampton, Brighton, and Weymouth. But our biggest adventure was taking them from Crookham, Hampshire to Comrie Perthshire in Scotland. Because I only had a Ford Prefect car at that time it was decided that wasn’t big enough to carry the four of us plus the tent and all the paraphernalia for a journey of approximately 450 miles from Crookham to the Camping site we’d booked at Comrie.   

Help came to the rescue when Kathy’s Uncle Phil offered us his metal trailer which hitched onto a towing bar on the back of my car. This trailer had a hinged lockable lid, a spare wheel and a solid water container attached to the back. It was perfect for our needs so off we trundled to Bonnie, Scotland loaded to the brim. I remember many hours later we were travelling along the road in the vicinity around Moffatt which in those days was in Dumfriesshire, later to become Dumfries and Galloway, when a train suddenly appeared running alongside the road we were travelling on. Many of the train passengers were looking out of their windows and waving at Chris and Martin who naturally waved back to them. It was a lovely welcoming moment to Scotland. We still had approximately 90 miles to go to Comrie but we eventually arrived at our camping site and pitched our tent.


This was our first of many subsequent visits to Scotland and we enjoyed visiting such places as Pitlochry where we all enjoyed seeing the Salmon leaping. We also saw ted Loch Tummel and admired the scenery from the Queens View. We went to Loch Tay and Crieff, a town which I believe was used for filming parts of what became a very popular television series called Dr Finlay’s Casebook. Another trip we did was taking a long car journey out to Braemar. The roads were deserted and we enjoyed the peace and serenity of the area. We stopped for a picnic but unfortunately, it started to rain so we stopped and not to be denied our picnic I opened one of the cars back doors and fixed a piece of waterproof sheeting up under which Kathy cooked some sausages on a small camping stove. They were delicious and after we were suitably replenished and the rain eased sufficiently, we continued our exploration of the route to Braemar.


The rain we encountered on the journey to Braemar was nothing compared to what was to come later. The sad truth was that on our 14-day holiday in Scotland we had ten days of rain, some of which was of Biblical proportions. We did our best to make the best of it by trying find places to take Chris and Martin out to escape the rain but it wasn’t easy to find any suitable dry places to satisfy our quest. I remember sitting in the tent and wistfully saying to Kathy ‘What are we doing, sitting here 450 miles from home in a tent with our two young adventure-seeking children with thunder and lightning all around us and the seemingly never-ending torrential rain lashing down on our newly purchased Canvas home’?    


Despite the dismal weather, we remember one dry day when the rain took pity on us and stopped. We made the most of it by paying a visit to my Sister in Law Ethel’s Brother Bob and his wife Nancy who lived in Hamilton. They made us very welcome and gave us a guided tour of the area complete with Bagpipes!


Eventually, the end of the holiday came and it was time for us to dismantle the tent, which fortunately had dried out sufficiently for us to pack it into the trailer, hitch it up to the car and commence our 450-mile journey home. We left on a Friday evening with the intention of driving through the night and only stopping for occasional breaks for food and some sleep. To this end Kathy made up a ‘bed’ for Chris and Martin in the back of the car and because it was important that I, as the driver should have a sleep or two to keep us all safe Kathy and I changed over our two front seats. This meant by me sleeping in the front passenger seat I could avoid the inconvenience and discomfort of having the gear lever and steering wheel in my way. Naturally, this meant that Kathy had those two items to avoid as much as she could but she bravely put up with it and survived the discomfort.  


After driving many miles something happened which was to have a lasting and happy effect on our later lives. We pulled into a layby for one of our breaks and within a few minutes, a car pulling a caravan entered the same layby and stopped in front of us.

With minutes the owners of the Caravan plus their two passengers had vacated the car and moved into the Caravan.  The van lights went on and the four people were now sitting around the table at the back of the Van, eating, drinking copious cups of tea and laughing and joking. Little did they know that whilst they were merrymaking in the warmth of their caravan, sitting in a Ford Prefect car behind them were two people, cold, tired and hungry, with their two children, fast asleep on the back seat. It was then at that moment in time that Kathy and I, now green with envy, decided that our tenting days were well and truly over. We saw, over the rainbow, a future for us where there would be no more sitting under canvas in some rain-sodden muddy thunder clapped field lit up by great flashes of lightning and later having the task of dismantling the soaking wet canvas, wait for it to dry sufficiently before packing it into our trailer and travelling for home. We decided that buying a caravan and heading for the open road was a far more appealing option.


It was some years later before we could realise this dream. It happened when we were on a trip to Shropshire to visit Kathy’s mother. One day we saw in the front garden of a house a second-hand caravan marked up for sale for only £300. We stopped our car which by this time was a Hillman Hunter saloon with automatic transmission.


I knocked on the door of the house and fortunately for us the owner was in. He gave us a thorough inspection of the van and its history. We were both very impressed with its good condition and after some negotiations, we agreed a price with him.  


I explained to him that we didn’t have a towing ball and bracket fixed on our car strong enough for towing a caravan and also, because we were not local people, we would like to return home in Hampshire and get this necessary safety requirement done to our car and return to Shropshire the following week to finalise the deal and pick up the caravan to bring home. He agreed to our request and we, complete with new tow ball and bracket returned the following Saturday.  It was quite exciting to complete the deal, hitch up the van and slowly drive away and head for the open road southwards. I must admit towing a caravan for the first time was a bit of a challenge particularly negotiating tight corners and roundabouts but we made the journey of approximately 160 miles safely home delighted with our new purchase.


--End of Party Forty-Four—


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